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It’s greener to give up burgers than your car

Picture by Beau96080 via Wikimedia Commons

Picture by Beau96080 via Wikimedia Commons

Jen Bartram
Digital News Editor

Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 1:48 PM -

Cutting burgers out of your diet could be better for the environment than getting rid of your car, a recent study suggests.

Food production from livestock is responsible for around a fifth of all greenhouse gases, but research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that production of beef is much more damaging to the environment than any other food production.

Compared to dairy, poultry, pork and egg production, beef requires 28 times more land, 11 times more water and produces 5 times more greenhouse gases.

Beef from grain-fed cattle is the worst offender, as cows are only able to absorb a small fraction of the energy from grain into their bloodstream, which results in greater inefficiency and energy loss. Even grass-fed cattle still have a higher carbon footprint than that of other animals bred for food.

One scientist has suggested that the environment would benefit more if we gave up red meat than if we gave up driving.

Professor Tim Benton from the University of Leeds told the Guardian:

“The biggest intervention people could make towards reducing their carbon footprints would not be to abandon cars, but to eat significantly less red meat.”

He suggested that not using grain for beef production in the US would free up calories that could be used to feed people, but acknowledged: “this opens a real can of worms”.

Another recent study published in the journal Climate Change found that greenhouse gases from livestock had increased 51% from 1961 to 2010.

Ken Caldeira, part of the research team involved in the study, said: “That tasty hamburger is the real culprit.

“It might be better for the environment if we all became vegetarians, but a lot of improvement could come from eating pork or chicken instead of beef.”

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